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By Lily Wheadon

After completing classroom rounds of recitations, eleven Masco students took the stage to recite two poems each in the school’s 18th annual Poetry Out Loud competition.

  In the weeks prior, many English teachers required that all students memorize a poem from the Poetry Out Loud website to recite for the class. After class recitations, students who were interested in competing in the school competition would perform their poems again and were graded on accuracy and performance quality. Other students in the class voted for their favorite recitations, and this vote also factored into the decision of who would advance.

  On the day of the competition, the winners from each class went down to the auditorium to perform two poems for an audience of judges, teachers, and students. This year, the competition was judged by high school principal Katie DiNardo, middle school art teacher Ursina Amsler, and former Masco students Julia Toropov and Stuart Foster. Toropov competed in Poetry Out Loud during her time at Masco and still recites poetry in her work as an agricultural educator, and Foster wrote an epic, which is a long form poem, as his senior internship.

  For many contestants, getting up on stage in front of a larger audience seemed daunting.

  “Before I went on stage I was super nervous and a little intimidated by how well everyone was doing, but once I got on stage I felt more at ease,” said first place winner Sophie Gustafson.

  In between the first and second round of competition, Poetry 12 students in the audience were invited to read poems that they have written in class. 

  The poetry students also did an improv poetry exercise while the judges were scoring the competition. The nine students were divided into two teams and given five minutes to write a poem about a subject suggested by an audience member. The students ended up writing two nonsensical poems about goats, and the rest of the audience voted for which poem they liked  better by means of applause, a tie that was broken by DiNardo.

  “It was fun to have a lighthearted competition with my friends,” said senior poetry student Jocelyn Dumouchel.

  This is not the first time poetry students have been the entertainment during the scoring, and they also help reinforce the importance of poetry in general.

  “[Poetry Out Loud] reminds people that poetry is a living art form, and the poetry students are living evidence of that,” said competition coordinator and poetry teacher Shannon Murphy.

  After the improv poetry session, the judges announced the top three scorers: senior Quil Delfino took third place, senior Jenna Lindsay was the runner up, and Gustafson took home the first place prize. She will compete at the state competition in March, which will likely take place in Newburyport and be open to the public.

  “I’m feeling a little nervous about the state competition, but mostly excited,” said Gustafson. “I think it will be a cool experience to get to meet high schoolers from across the state and see how everyone interprets poems so differently.”

  Although Gustafson will be the only Masco student advancing, every student who participated likely found something valuable in learning their poems.

  “I think when students learn a poem by heart, they really do master it, that’s intellectually satisfying of course,” said Murphy, “but if they’ve chosen their poems carefully, it’s also emotionally satisfying, because there’s a reason that poem found them.”